I remember clearly the moment I realized that the U.S. was not invincible. I was ten years old and for the first time I was told that the U.S. had lost a war. Not only did this revelation raise questions of America’s invincibility for me, but it also raised the question of America’s infallibility. After all, if we were invincible because God was on our side, then what does it mean when we lose? Is God telling us that we are wrong in this instance? If He is, then we are not as virtuous and just as most Americans are lead to believe as children.
This deeply troubled my ten year old mind, and it may sound absurd but my world changed after that revelation… no, it crumbled, and I had to gradually rebuild it into a new world - one more in touch with reality. It wasn’t a fun process, but as painful as that experience was, I grew, and my naivety and innocence went kicking and screaming for the better.
The war in which I speak of was of course the Vietnam War, a war in which America is still struggling to come to terms with. Ever since the Nixon administration, American presidents have been trying to reclaim pride which was lost in the rice fields of Vietnam. Carter did it by using the POW/MIA issue to not reconcile relations, Reagan did it by imposing stiff sanctions upon Vietnam and supplying the Khmer Rouge with weapons to fight the Vietnamese established Cambodian government, Bush Sr. did it by declaring at the start of the first Gulf war that the Vietnam syndrome is officially buried in the sands of Iraq, Clinton by reconciling relations with Vietnam, Bush Jr. by promising Vietnam a spot in the WTO - and they all did it by denying any wrong doing on America’s part. But what they all failed to understand is that we will never have that pride again, we sacrificed it, along with our innocence, on the shores of Danang, and in return we came of age, we grew through the awful process of trial and error. That pride that lay buried in Vietnam is the innocent pride of a young country and it was the cost of growing up, so let it stay buried and let us move on – let us progress.
It is that notion of progression that I humored myself with in order to come to terms with America’s loss in Vietnam. I consoled myself with the idea that even though America is fallible at least we evolved through the process of our loss. I convinced myself that we would not make the same mistakes that hegemons of the past had. We would learn from our mistakes, because that is the sign of a sustainable super power – that is the sign of greatness. But I was wrong, and once again I feel my world crumbling.
Over the last six years I’ve watch my beloved country decline in just about every area possible for a country to decline in – economics, world opinion, public opinion, military capability, in ethics, integrity, honesty, humility, compassion, education, credibility - and the list goes on. But the one event that has come to represent all that has declined in America since the Bush administration has taken over, is the fact that once again America is stuck in a war in Iraq that bears all too much similarity to the war in Vietnam. Rather than progress we seem to have digressed with age. What happened to our beautiful, virtuous country? Maybe we don’t deserve the pride and honor bestowed upon a world leader. We have proven ourselves incapable of the task.So, if America has not grown up since Vietnam then it is time America starts because the responsibility of world governance should not be left in the hands of children. Vietnam was a wake up call for America to change, we heeded the warning then fell back into our slumber, it’s time we wake up again – unless we are content to watch our great country go the way of the Roman, Greek, and Ottoman empires. We have our work cut out for us in order to redeem ourselves from the sins of the last six years. I believe we can, but the world will have to be more forgiving and understanding to us than the Bush administrations has been to the world.